Former Air Force enlisted chief discusses leadership with Wiesbaden Airmen
Retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Sam E. Parish talks to members of the Hessen Military Community Top 3 at the Wiesbaden Dining Facility Jan. 15.

WIESBADEN, Germany - "We don't need lemmings today in the Air Force; we need people who will challenge us."
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That's one of the many observations retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Sam E. Parish shared with members of the Hessen Military Community Top 3 during a luncheon at the Wiesbaden Dining Facility Jan. 15. The Air Force's eighth chief master sergeant talked to the local Airmen about the quality of today's rank and file and the challenges facing them in today's world.
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Sharing some of the uphill battles he faced in trying to influence change in the Air Force during his career, Parish told his listeners it's vital that everyone "provide real feedback ... the good, the bad and the ugly.
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"We've become too politically correct," he said. "By politically correct I mean too many people telling the boss what we think he wants to hear and not what he needs to hear.
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"It doesn't matter what you do in the Air Force, it's how you do it," said Parish, saying that every job specialty, whether boom operator, intelligence analyst, B-2 bomber pilot or weather specialist, is a crucial link in accomplishing the Air Force mission. "Which one would you eliminate'
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"You're doing a great job, and you're doing it under the most trying circumstances," said Parish, referring to constant deployments in the Global War on Terror and the stress that it places on families.
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"With frequent deployments it takes a commitment to keep the home fires burning. ... If you want to deploy and you have a family, you have to take care of that family."
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Parish, who was born in Marianna, Fla., said that when he joined the Air Force in 1954 he wasn't convinced families and the military were ideally suited for one another. "When I first started in the military I didn't believe children could have a normal life or the same education ... but I've changed my mind. I believe family is the strongest part of our Air Force today. ... If you don't know how to take care of your home life then we've lost you. ... Families are unbelievably important."
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The Air Force's former senior enlisted leader who retired in 1986 said having an understanding wife who "allowed him" to love the Air Force as his first love and constantly learning from his Air Force family were critical during his career.
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While the mission of the Air Force hasn't changed all that much over the years, Parish said, it has come to rely more on its enlisted leaders for leadership. Now with fewer officers, Airmen turn more to enlisted leaders for leadership.
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"From where we have come and where we have to go you'll see an Air Force with more enlisted specialists," he said, adding there are also more opportunities today for senior Air Force noncommissioned officers to excel.
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"The biggest job we have in the Air Force is taking care of you people," said the former Air Force senior enlisted leader, stressing the role of mentors and role modeling.
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"My leaders never let me fail," he said, explaining that despite being given new challenges throughout his career, he knew he could count on their ultimate support. "I knew that they had faith in me, that I could do it.
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"If you do the best that you can do ... there's somebody in the system who will take care of you," he said.

Page last updated Wed February 3rd, 2010 at 06:12